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Burning Russian plane crash-lands at Moscow airport; at least 41 dead

By Allen Cone and Daniel Uria
A Sukhoi Superjet 100, operated by Aeroflot, burns at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport on Sunday. Photo by Russian Investigative Committee/EPA
A Sukhoi Superjet 100, operated by Aeroflot, burns at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport on Sunday. Photo by Russian Investigative Committee/EPA

May 5 (UPI) -- A burning Aeroflot plane crash-landed at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport on Sunday, killing at least 41 people, including at least two children, the Russian state news agency Tass reported.

The twin-engine plane, operated by Russia's Aeroflot, carried 73 passengers as well as five crew members, according to Tass. Yelena Markovskaya, a representative for the Moscow interregional transport investigation department of the Russian Investigative Committee, said 37 people survived, including four crew members.

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The Russian-built Sukhoi Superjet-100, bound for Murmansky in northwestern Russia, declared an emergency shortly after takeoff around 6 p.m. and returned to the airport after 27 minutes in the air, RT reported. It landed on a second attempt.

A crew member confirmed the plane was struck was by lightning.

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Several dozen ambulances were dispatched to the scene as the plane remained on the runway. A dense cloud of black smoke poured out of the plane, including from the engines.

The fire was extinguished, with the tail completely consumed by the blaze and much of the rear fuselage burned down to its metal skeleton.

The airport was closed briefly, forcing all inbound flights into holding patterns, International Flight Network reported.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered an investigation of the crash.

"All instructions have been given to conduct the most thorough investigation, the necessary instructions to find out the cause of this accident," press secretary Dmitry Peskov told Tass.

The victims and relatives of the dead passengers will be reimbursed $31,000 by insurance companies, the press service of the All-Russian Insurers Union reported.

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The plane went into service last year, and Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, the manufacturer, reported it underwent scheduled maintenance in April.

The Sukhoi Superjet-100 first entered commercial service in 2011, according to IFN.

Aeroflot operates 50 Sukhoi Superjets, with 100 more on order.

The SSJ100 model has been involved in one fatal crash, according to TASS. On May 9, 2012, a pre-production version of the jet, owned by Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company, crashed. All 45 people aboard were killed and pilot error was determined the case of the crash.

The worst plane crash in Russian aviation history was in 2015 when a Kogalymavia Airbus A321 passenger airliner, with 217 passengers and seven crew members on board, crashed in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt en route from the resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh to St. Petersburg. There were no survivors.

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The worst crash in Russia was in 2001 in Irkutsk when a Russian Tupolev-154 crashed on its third approach to the runway for a refueling stop, killing all 145 people.

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